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lemon/lime zester

dixiegal Mar 1, 2012 05:18 AM

I see on the cooking shows the lemon zesters that the cooks use look like a long, thin file or rasp. I see in many of my local stores the kind that is much shorter, but wider. Is there any benefit of one style over the other?
I first think the cooks use the things they do for a useful reason, but then I wonder if the reason is just because it looks better on camera.

  1. s
    smkit Mar 1, 2012 04:48 PM

    I own several microplanes in different styles. Avoid at all cost the short round one made specifically for citrus. Mine broke after an extremely short period of time. It isn't a good design at all. The edge on that one is not metal so it just snapped off. (see below)


    Also, some of the wider models don't have the end metal 'foot' with rubber on it. It depends upon the retailer. I like the ones with the rubber foot thingy. It prevents slipping and you can make it very stable on the counter. I've shaved a few knuckles in my day with microplanes, but it is indispensable when dealing with really hard cheases.

    I would agree that the wider one is more versatile though, and I actually travel with my (wide) microplane it is so useful. The nice thing about the narrow one is that it is more maneuverable, so you have a bit more control when zesting smaller lemons, delicate meyer lemons, and limes. When I use the wider one on small citrus I tend to get more pith.

    Lastly, the long narrow one isn't great for parmesan cheese IMO unless you want really thin delicate strands. When I use the long narrow one with parm, the strands come out so thin that they actually stick together and don't mix well in the pasta, and if you use American varieties of parm with more moisture it will instantly melt and just make a cheese glob on your pasta.

    Just my 2 cents. They are well worth it though.

    1. e
      escondido123 Mar 1, 2012 01:59 PM

      The original Microplane sold for kitchens was the long narrow one with the black handle--all the bigger, wider ones came after that. For everything but zesting, I'd prefer a wide one since I find it easy to slip up with it. Of course, if you want a ribbon of zest for a martini or such, this is not the device to use.

      4 Replies
      1. re: escondido123
        dixiegal Mar 1, 2012 03:49 PM

        Sounds like the wider one might have more uses. Love the story Chem of how the wood rasp became a kitchen tool. Wonder if her husband ever got it back or he just had to go buy another one. I love stories about spouses getting each others stuff to 'repurpose' it for their own use.

        Reminds me of my cousin going out to the garden for a tomato and found one of her bras cradeling her husbands prize tomato that he was going to use in a tomato growing competition.
        I laughed as she told me this and ask what she thought when she saw it. She said "I was just trying to figure out how he decided on which bra to use" LOL

        1. re: dixiegal
          Chemicalkinetics Mar 1, 2012 04:22 PM


          The story is a bit deeper too. Here is what follows: "The Lees marveled at the tool, ate the cake, then promptly changed the product description in their catalogue. The Microplane® grater had earned permanent space in the kitchen."

          This is the infamous Lee Valley Tools:


        2. re: escondido123
          ellabee Mar 1, 2012 04:28 PM

          Agreed that the wider one gets more use (hard cheese, particularly), but the wonderful thing about the long thin Microplane is that if you use it open side up, running it over the citrus like a violin bow, all the zest piles up in the curved area, so it's easy to see when you have just enough.

          For ribbons/twists for cocktails, a paring knife works best for me.

          1. re: ellabee
            smkit Mar 1, 2012 04:53 PM

            ellabee, I would definitely agree with that, and I do that too -- though it is a tiny bit harder to get zest out than with the wider one.

        3. Chemicalkinetics Mar 1, 2012 06:59 AM

          I have a microplane-like zester. It looks and functions just like the microplane, and it works much better than other zesters/graters that I have used. Mine is the shorter and wider one, like this:


          The long thin one gives you a long stroke. The wider one seems to be a bit easier to use.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics
            mikie Mar 1, 2012 08:01 AM

            Microplane makes a ton of products, it started wtih woodworking and has understandably crossed over into the kitchen. The origional woodworking rasps were long and thin, consistant with other woodworking rasps, so perhaps the chefs are using the microplanes they started out with or replacements of like design. Here's a link to the site: http://us.microplane.com/microplaneki...

            1. re: mikie
              dixiegal Mar 1, 2012 08:38 AM

              Thanks for the links. Do you all keep it in some kind of sheath or cover to protect it and anything else that might come in contact with it?

              1. re: dixiegal
                mikie Mar 1, 2012 08:58 AM

                I'm not sure if they all come with a snap on plastic cover but I know the ones in the kitchen drawer have a clear plastic cover to protect the micorplane and more importantly your hands when you reach in. These things are extremely sharp. Again, I'm not 100% sure, but I think all of them are stainless, even the ones in the hardware store.

              2. re: mikie
                Chemicalkinetics Mar 1, 2012 02:54 PM

                Yes, it was started as a woodworking tool, but did you know how it made it big in the kitchen ?

                "The big moment came in 1994, when Lorraine Lee, a homemaker in Ottawa, Canada, was making an Armenian orange cake. Out of frustration with her old grater, she picked up a new tool her husband, Leonard, had brought home from their hardware store, Lee Valley Tools. She slid the orange across its blades and was amazed. Lacy shards of zest fell from its surface like snowflakes...."

                Always thought it is a nice story.


            2. TeRReT Mar 1, 2012 06:27 AM

              microplane is a brand, probably the most popular brand of rasp, the wider one just lets you have a wider plane for zesting. While it doesn't make much of a difference for lemons/limes, it can make it a bit faster for oranges, but also chocolate or any cheeses you want to grate such as grana padano or reggiano. My first microplane was the long thing one, which worked fine for every application, my latest is the broader one and its a bit easier for doing cheeses, horseradish and ginger , but makes no difference for lemons/limes and garlic

              3 Replies
              1. re: TeRReT
                wyogal Mar 1, 2012 06:44 AM

                It's quite a bit different from my zester. Completely different sized pieces. I found a big difference in all citrus, not just oranges.

                1. re: wyogal
                  TeRReT Mar 1, 2012 05:12 PM

                  you can get varying levels of fine to coarse in all of their models, be it thin with a handle, thin with no handle, broad, they also have fine/coarse combination ones where half is fine and half is coarse, so it just depends on the coarseness you get

                2. re: TeRReT
                  PepinRocks Mar 1, 2012 08:07 PM

                  Ditto on the microplane. It's GREAT, for zesting, grating hard cheese, chocolate, etc. Hard cheese ends up being fluffy clouds of incredible awesomeness (is that a word?) - for pasta or inside crepes or on top of applicable dishes. You won't regret owning one. I own this model and it's one of my favorite "specialty" tools:


                3. w
                  wyogal Mar 1, 2012 05:22 AM

                  Micro planes... The are good because they produce a fine zest, and are very easy to use. My other zester makes long strings, which has their place, but usually as a garnish. The microplane is fine, and the oils in the zest are more easily exposed with the tiny pieces it produces.

                  1. s
                    sparrowgrass Mar 1, 2012 05:20 AM

                    Oh, I think looks count on TV, as do sponsors! I have a microplane from the hardware store that zests like a charm--it is long and thin, with a black handle, stainless steel. It also works on the hardest parmesan rind, turning it into a fluff.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: sparrowgrass
                      dixiegal Mar 1, 2012 08:36 AM

                      From the hardware store? LOL who knew. Wonder if I could find one at our local Ace Harware. I guess I just need to make sure it is stainless steel. I guess I should look for fine or extra fine? I am assuming that they come in different file/grate types. Like coarse, medium, fine, etc.

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